When Will Educational Neuroscience be an Integral Part of Teaching?

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Peter Barnes
Learning Capacity, Podcasts, Educational Neuroscience, For Principals

“It's here now. If you haven't looked, you may not have noticed it.”

That's neuroscientist, Dr Steve Miller, speaking on The Learning Capacity Podcast about the emerging field of educational neuroscience.

He pointed out that neuroscience, the knowledge of how our brains work, is being applied in a range of diverse fields and has recently come to education.

Research from neuroscience is being applied in:

  • Professional athletics – to improve performance
  • The military - to make their elite teams consistently more elite
  • Medicine - for diagnosis and treatment
  • Business - to understand decision-making and consumer behaviour
  • Education - to improve teaching methodologies and learning outcomes


In education, neuroscience is being leveraged to provide new tools and methods to answer educational issues.

“It is not just using knowledge from brain research to help individuals with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, but it is working with the general population to increase everybody's learning capacity,” Dr Miller explained.

Evidence from research

Dr Miller says that the key to evaluating educational neuroscience is the level of evidence:

“Is there strong evidence? Have there been randomised well designed controlled trials? Or is it basically the recommendation from an individual expert which we call low evidence?”

Applications from strong evidence:

Programs from companies such as BrainHQ and Scientific Learning Corporation have been built on the basis of strong evidence from well-designed randomised trials, explained Dr Miller.

Medicine and education

In the podcast he drew a parallel between how science came to be applied to medical practice and how science is becoming applied to education.

“About a hundred years ago doctors did what they called their best practice, and it was based on a communication from previous individuals telling them what worked. But there was no study design, there was no science to it. Then over time the scientific method came to be an integral part of all medicine.”

Education will be similar to the evolution of the medical model, he said.

“A scientific model of teaching (based on neuroscience research and scientific process) is complimentary to the current pedagogical model (pedagogy being the philosophy of education).”

He suggested that educators are heading to the same point as doctors.

“Educators have to understand that there is a practice element to their field just like there is for doctors who practice medicine. But at the same time, just as we expect and we hold our doctors responsible for being up to date on the new science and new technologies, we will expect the same from our educators.” 

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